Bus companies help to tackle air pollution

One of England’s first Low Emission Zones has made progress thanks to cooperation between Brighton & Hove City Council and local bus companies.

Local bus firms are spending millions upgrading their vehicle fleets, with brand new cleaner buses.

At the same time the city council has won funds from the Department for Transport totalling almost £1.5 million to fit older vehicles with cleaner exhaust technology for a healthier city.

Last month it was reported that air quality in Brighton’s most polluted streets was improving – down 21 per cent since 2012.  However the worst areas, around North Street and Western Road, still breach EU law.

Those two roads have, since 2015, formed a bus-based low emission zone (LEZ).  Most air pollution there comes from buses because other vehicle movements are heavily restricted.

Bus companies have been buying new cleaner vehicles or upgrading existing ones with cleaner-emission technology.

Vehicle pollution is rated by so-called ‘Euro’ standards.  Compared to Euro 1 standards introduced in 1992, today’s Euro 6 vehicles emit about one sixteenth of the Nitrogen Oxides and one thirtieth of the airborne particles.

The LEZ requires companies to use only buses rated at Euro 5, 6  or better within five years  When it started in January 2015 Brighton & Hove Buses fleet included 100 Euro 3 buses and 56 Euro 4 buses.  It operated 110 Euro 5 buses, of which 13 are hybrids which run part-time in electric mode.

Brighton & Hove Buses' new Euro 6 hybrids run partly electric. 

Today a series of multi-million-pound purchases of new buses, plus conversions of older ones, means the company will be operating no Euro 3 buses after the end of this month.

Euro 4 buses will be phased out entirely by the end of 2018.  That’s a full year ahead of the deadline to meet the terms of the low emission zone.

Also operating in the city and investing in cleaner vehicles are Cuckmere Buses and Stagecoach.  Government grants secured by the council are helping the Sussex Bus company to retrofit cleaner emissions technology on twelve buses which travel on routes in central Brighton.

Chair of the council’s transport committee Cllr Gill Mitchell said:  “The council has been busy winning government grants to help transport operators clean up their fleets and those operators are proving very willing partners.  It makes commercial as well as environmental sense because people in this city like the idea of cleaner travel. We have relatively low car ownership so cleaner buses are essential if we’re to make a real difference to air pollution.”

Martin Harris, MD of Brighton & Hove Buses, said:: "Over the past two years, we’ve spent £12 million on new buses and retrofitted Selective Catalytic Reduction Technology to over 70 buses so that today 85 percent of our fleet is at least Euro 5 or better. By 2018, our entire fleet of nearly 270 buses will be at least Euro 5. We’re fully committed to doing all we can for better air quality and have been working closely with the council on this.

"We're one of only a few bus companies to have carried out real-world emissions testing and have worked with local emission experts at Ricardo Engineering of Shoreham on this. We're constantly monitoring and challenging the environmental performance of our fleet and encourage other transport providers to do the same."